India will witness burgeoning demand for CEOs in the next decade

It is estimated that India will need close to 10,000 business leaders every year from now on

Indian corporates, MNCs in India, entrepreneurial mid-sized companies, start-ups, and outsourcing centres will all be continuously on the lookout, more often in the external markets, to identify and install their top deck of leaders. Leaders who would enable their companies to sustain the revolutionary tech & environmental demands and yet deliver profitable growth over a long period of time. There will be abundant availability of financial capital, access to global partnerships, land resources, and skilled manpower, but the shortage will be felt in the business leadership talent, which will include CEOs and CxOs. It is estimated that India will need close to 10,000 business leaders every year from now on. And this number doesn’t include requirements from the SME sector, which may blossom to become independent, professionally managed companies. This requirement is unfeasible in terms of generating the pipeline of such leaders. Having said that, the solutions are fast emerging and some of them are really working out if early signs are anything to go by. The solutions framework looks like the following:

Manufacturing-led CEOs / CxOs: The manufacturing sector referred to here would include advanced product & process tech companies, such as specialty chemicals, pre-engineered components, auto OEMs, capital goods, specialized metallurgical processes, plastics, and some of the consumer products like paints, and lighting. These clusters are looking to train, groom and build leaders with an engineering background. They are smartly ‘earmarking’ the engineers who are showing promise either in the plant floor, R&D labs, or application-intensive sales or product management functions, very early in their careers, say when they are at 30 – 35 years. Subsequently, these earmarked executives are selectively exposed to executive MBAs, strategy sessions, a stint in the chairman’s office, and so on. As and when the new expansions take place in terms of additional product lines, these engineering-oriented talents are catapulted to BU leadership positions. After a few years of BU, the next stop is the CEO position. This is a trend already seen in EMS, and in certain companies which are coming into prominence as the alternate supply chain to China, and in a few cases, with traditional Indian manufacturing houses. Whatever happened to the IT world in the 90s is beginning to happen in manufacturing – thanks to Indian engineering prowess.

Leadership for Tech: Tech will be India’s mainstay, which will include software exporters, SaaS, hardware, robotics, 5G IIoT-based automation companies, and eCommerce & fintech start-ups that have sprung up. It would further cover captive outsourcing centres of all global multinationals, be it for their enterprise IT requirements or product development requirements, or BPO, and will continue to grow in India. Collectively, the tech itself requires a growing number of business leaders who are capable of operational efficiencies, global BD, and delivering growth objectives. The executives who are being identified for such roles invariably have high-end educational and corporate pedigree – the IIT, NIT, and foreign engineering undergrads who have had stints abroad are witnessing opportunities waiting for them in India. In this context, Indian companies are attracting scores of executives returning home from the US and Europe. The reverse brain-drain has been triggered as the US is no longer a final career destination. Herein, India is following China’s principle of educate and return.

Creative talent for Consumer & Service Industry: The Indian market-facing companies that will sell a host of branded products & services spanning B2C, D2C, and B2trade will become so large that India will witness tens of Unilevers and P&Gs in the making. There will be a differentiation of large format companies and a number of niche product companies mostly selling online. India will witness a spectrum of scale: Unilever, P&G, and Nestle on one end and Myntra and Nykaa on the other. The leadership talent here will be marketers who understand creative communication, brands, and buying behaviour. As years roll off, there will be a considerable shortage of such talent which is where the corporates in that space will devise strategies, evangelize graduates to take up a career in sales & product management. Eventually, India will have to fast-track the promising talent.

R Suresh,
INSIST Consulting

Functional Leaders: India today is perhaps amongst the top-3 countries producing legal professionals – thanks to national law schools. Similarly, India produces world-class creative talent – thanks to NID; HR and CFO, talent that is comparable to the best in the world. Hopefully, that stream of production will continue and come in handy to cater to the burgeoning demand. The Indian R&D cutting across pharma, life sciences, automotive, and composites will perhaps be the most sought-after functional talent. The tech institutions in India and outside India that are attracting Indian Ph.D. students will be the breeding ground. Corporate R&D departments are already making long-term collaborative deals with tech institutions.

To conclude, Indian leadership talent will be in demand like never before. There will be a trend for Indian executives to stay onshore rather than migrate. Due to this, there will be a reverse brain drain. These are the effective strategies being played out to plug the gap.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Scroll to Top